Jan 09, 2020 08:00am
What Does it Mean to be “Born Again”?

We’ve all heard the phrase “born again”. Some mock. Some scratch their temple. Some bend their knees in worship. But, like, what does it mean? Instead of all of us taking stabs at its meaning, let’s see how the Bible understands it.

Born again in John’s first letter

The Apostle John makes nine references to being born again in his first letter. They are wonderfully helpful as we understand one of Christianity’s pillar doctrines. I’ll list them out to paint a full picture, then add some thoughts to tie it all together:

  • 1 John 2:29: If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
  • 1 John 3:9: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
  • 1 John 4:7: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
  • 1 John 5:1: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
  • 1 John 5:4: For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
  • 1 John 5:18: We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Practicalities over process

A frustration of mine is that John doesn’t talk at all about the process of being born again. Argh, it remains a mystery! Even though it’s happened to all true believers, we just don’t know how it happens! We get hints in John’s Gospel – that we become children of God (John 1:11-12) and that we are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8). But beyond that, the process is a mystery.

Instead, John cares about the practicalities, the actual behaviors associated with those born of God: 

They do right. 

They do not make a practice of sinning. 

They love each other in the same way Christ loves them. 

They believe that Jesus is the Christ. 

They overcome the world. Satan can’t touch them.

This aids me, personally, in two ways: 

First, it assures me of my salvation. We all need that. However broken I am, because of my advocate (1 John 2:1) in Jesus, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit within me (1 John 2:27), I am assured that a new birth has occurred, in grace. How? Because these above things are generally true of me. Not because I’m awesome, but because God is.

Second, it helps me counsel others who are asking, “Am I a Christian?” This is a purpose of the Bible. As J.C. Ryle wrote, 

“I will not be stopped with the foolish observation that no man can tell in this world whether or not he has the Spirit…Where is the use of the Scriptures if we cannot discover whether we are going to heaven or hell?”

Examine yourself

If you, then, after examining to see if you’re in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), that you’ve been born again or not, based on the Bible’s teaching – not your own favorable whims – and conclude that you have, indeed, been born again, praise God! How glorious of a truth! 

And if you’ve sensed that no, something’s not there – simply ask Him. He’s eager to save you, to provide new life. What’s holding you back?

Copyright © 2020 by Justin Talbert @ . Used with permission. 
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